Sir William DORMER, Knight

Born: 1503, Eythorpe, Buckinghamshire, England

Died: 17 May 1575, Wenge, Buckinghamshire, England

Father: Robert DORMER of West Wycombe (Sir)

Mother: Jane NEWDIGATE

Married 1: Mary SIDNEY


1. Jane DORMER (D. Feria)

2. Anne DORMER

Married 2: Dorothy CATESBY ABT 1552


3. Catherine DORMER (B. Bletsoe)

4. Mary DORMER

5. Robert DORMER (1 B. Dormer of Wing)

6. Margaret DORMER

7. Richard DORMER

8. Francis DORMER

9. Anne DORMER

10. Peregrine DORMER

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born by 1514, only son of Sir Robert Dormer of West Wycombe, Wing and London by Jane, dau. of John Newdigate of Harefield, Mdx. and Amphilicia Neville. Educ. ?I. Temple. Married first, lic. Jan 1535, Mary, dau. of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst. Married second, by 1551, Dorothy, dau. of Anthony Catesby of Whiston Northants. Suc. fa. Jul 1552. KB 29 Sep 1553. J.p. Bucks. 1547-d.; commr. relief 1550, musters 1570-4; Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire 1553-4, 1568-9; marshal and keeper of the falcons Jul 1552-d., chief steward, Ampthill honor 15 Oct 1553-d. Kt. of the Bath.

William was a baptismal name much favoured by the Dormer family and the career of the only son of Sir Robert Dormer before the 1540s is all but impossible to disentangle from those of his numerous kinsmen. Sir Robert Dormer's involvement with Wing started at the dissolution of the Monasteries when he was granted the manor of Wing and Ascott priory. He also owned the manor at West Wycombe and this seems to be the predominant home at least in the middle part of the century. William Dormer, Sir Roberts son, was engaged to Jane Seymour before Henry VIII decided otherwise. This did not seem to affect the Dormer's presence at Court and they continued to be a powerful influence. One of the bearers of his name was a gentleman in the household of Cromwell considered for transfer to the royal service in 1538. If Dormer was Cromwell's servant, his marriage to a daughter of Sir William Sidney, later chamberlain of the household to Prince Edward, may have been the minister's work. He served under his father in the French campaign of 1544 and is probably the young Dormer who two years later was mustered in Buckinghamshire as a captain with 100 men. In 1546 also, with his father, he attended the reception at court for the French Ambassador. From 1535 until his mother's self-imposed exile in 1559 he lived at Eythrope.

Dormer gained his first experience of Parliament as a young man when he was returned in 1542 as second Member for Chipping Wycombe with John Gates, who had no known connexion with the county but was a groom of the privy chamber. Dormer probably also benefited from his court connexions both then and at his later returns for the shire. Nothing is known about his part in the succession crisis in 1553, but when in May 1554 Mary confirmed him in his post as falconer she did so in recognition of his support against the Duke of Northumberland. His selection as her first sheriff for Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire probably reflects the Queen's friendship with his daughter Jane, and may have influenced Dormer's return to the Parliament of 1558. Jane married the Count of Feria (later Duke de Feria) who was Felipe of Spain's chief envoy at the court and Dormer also visited Elizabeth at Hatfield during the latter part of Mary's reign.

When Mary decided that Elizabeth should no longer be kept in the Tower of London in 1554 she was sent to the palace at Woodstock starting on 19 May. The first night of the journey was spent at Richmond, the second at Windsor and the third at West Wycombe with Sir William Dormer. The following night was spent at Rycote with Lord Williams and she arrived at Woodstock on 23 May. On the return journey from Woodstock to Hatfield Elizabeth may have spent the night at Ascott Manor again under the auspices of Sir William Dormer. These associations with Elizabeth, and the Dormers obvious loyalty to the crown, stood them in good stead even though they were known to be a Catholic family.

The death of Mary and the departure of Jane and his mother soon after for the Continent did not harm Dormer although he shared their dislike for the Anglican settlement. Re-elected to Parliament in 1571, he remained active in local management until his death on 17 May 1575.
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